Monday, February 29, 2016

A way too early look at 30 films that could be 2016's Oscar contenders


Now that another season of predicting winners and nominees from movies that many of us have seen and read extensively about, we now have 365 days until we get this feeling of relief again.  But it is never too early to look and see what might be the major players for next years award season.  Obviously, many of these films I am basing this off of concept, cast and director alone.  By this time next year, half of these films being in the conversation for an award will be laughable at best.  For now, it sure is fun to look ahead and see what we might be talking about in the same light we are currently discussing Spotlight, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Big Short right now.  

30. LBJ

Director: Rob Reiner

Lead Actors: Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, C. Thomas Howell, Jeffery Donovan

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: The story of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson from his young days in West Texas to the White House. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: This, if anything, seems like a great vehicle for Woody Harrelson to get a nomination.  Presidential biopics always have potential if done well, even if they are about one of the least liked presidents in recent history.  Rob Reiner is a trusted name and is always liable to put out something significant.

29. Lion

Director: Garth Davis

Lead Actors: Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, David Wenham

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: There is a chance that this film doesn't go very far into awards season, but it is getting some early hype, and could easily be one of the more touching movies of the year.  With a cast that includes two time nominee Rooney Mara and former winner Nicole Kidman, there is a lot of potential for this to pull an acting nomination.  If it is absolutely outstanding, who knows how far it could go.

28. Una

Director: Benedict Andrews

Lead Actors: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Indira Varma

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at an older man's workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life. Their confrontation will uncover buried memories and unspeakable desires. It will shake them both to the core. (IMDB link)

Why it could be a contender: I have a feeling that this could be the year that Rooney Mara begins to become that perennial contender that instantly makes a movie jump into the conversation.  It seems like her, Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander are on their way to becoming the new it-girls in terms of the Oscars.  This movie is from a rookie director, so there is a chance that it completely bombs, but the premise seems interesting enough on paper that if it could pull in Mara, it could perhaps pull us in as well.

27. Loving

Director: Jeff Nichols

Lead Actors: Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll and Ruth Negga

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: It seems like Hollywood might have foreseen backlash at the lack of diverse film offerings in 2015, because there are a lot of movies that scream Oscar nominee on paper that deal with racial issues.  The first on this list is about an interracial couple and is directed by Jeff Nichols, who was responsible for 2012's outstanding film Mud.  It is a little strange to see names like Nick Kroll high up on the cast list, but one never knows how well they might transition into a film about more serious subject matter (no offense to Kroll, who is frequently hilarious).  

26. Free State of Jones

Director: Gary Ross

Lead Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Sean Bridgers

Release Date: May 13th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Set during the Civil War, Free State of Jones tells the story of defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, distinguishing him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Finally a film with a release date! In May... While that isn't usually the time you put out Academy friendly movies, I'm putting this one on here because it seems like the type of movie that could get a bunch of technical nominations and perhaps sway a few voters to give it a look for picture if it ends up being anything more than a summer blockbuster.  McConaughey hasn't been pitching a perfect game since his breakout 2013, but he has been frequently solid and there is no reason to think that it stops this year.  And Gary Ross did have Oscar nomination success with his 2003 film Seabiscuit.  

25. The Promise

Director: Terry George

Lead Actors: Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghadashloo, Charlotte Le Bon, James Cromwell

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris - a renowned American journalist based in Paris. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: There isn't much to go off of on this premise, but the director is responsible for writing and directing Hotel Rwanda, so he has the pedigree.  Christian Bale is becoming another yearly fixture and has been elevating the films he has been in for years, and Oscar Isaac is looking to become the same thing over the next few years.  The love-triangle set in the fall of the Ottoman empire could end up being a winning concept, and this certainly seems like the type of film that could generate acting nominations.  

24. The Light Between Oceans

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Lead Actors: Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz

Release Date: September 2nd, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: The Place Beyond the Pines was wildly underrated, and I could see director Cianfrance making a comeback with this film.  The trailer was recently released and actually made me even more excited for this movie, moving it up a few spots on the list.  It is based on a best selling book, starring two Oscar winners and a perennial nominee and looks to tell a moving story, there is no reason that this won't be a fantastic film.  

23. Manchester By the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Lead Actors: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, Kyle Chandler, Kara Hayward

Release Date: January 23rd, 2016 (Sundance), TBA 2016 (Wide Release)

IMDB Synopsis: An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: I have not seen this film yet, but the reviews from Sundance were outstanding.  Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams were highly praised, and the film itself was incredibly well received (8.9 IMDB/94% Rotten Tomatoes).  The premise is vague and I haven't wanted to read too deeply into the reviews as to not get anything spoiled, but from what I have read it seems like this could end up being one of this year's Sundance heavyweights.  

22. The Accountant

Director: Gavin O'Connor

Lead Actors: Anna Kendrick, Ben Affleck, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow

Release Date: October 7th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Okay, I realize this is likely way too much faith to put into a Ben Affleck accounting drama.  But based on the director, the extensive cast including J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor and Anna Kendrick, and the October release date, I am putting faith in this movie with a one sentence synopsis that could either come off as cliche and boring or fascinating and award-worthy.  

21. A Monster Calls

Director: J.A. Bayona

Lead Actors: Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Geraldine Chaplin, Lewis MacDougall

Release Date: October 14th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: The monster does not come walking often. This time it comes to Connor, and it asks for the one thing Connor cannot bring himself to do. Tell the truth. This is a very touching story about a boy who feels very damaged, guilty and mostly angry. He struggles at school with bullies, and pity looks from everyone, and at home with his mother's sickness. Will Connor overcome his problems? Will everything be okay? Will Connor be able to speak the truth?

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom's terminal illness.
(IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Unless this completely bombs, I would expect to see this in the Adapted Screenplay category if nothing else.  I have not read the book, but I've heard that is excellent and has the potential to become a great movie.  I get Pan's Labyrinth vibes from reading the plot description and the early photographs that have come out definitely give the film a darker look.  That combined with a cast of favorites, including Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson, and I think this is a film with a great deal of potential.  

20. Florence Foster Jenkins

Director: Stephen Frears

Lead Actors: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Helberg

Release Date: May 6th, 2016 (UK)

IMDB Synopsis: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress, who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice. (IMDB link)

Why it could be a contender: There still isn't a listed US release date for this, and it definitely seems silly in concept but think about it. Meryl Streep as an heiress who wants to become an opera singer, despite being terrible and being taught by Hugh Grant.  Maybe it ends up just being a fun little British comedy, but maybe it is one of those surprise movies that is heartfelt and clever enough to make some noise.

19. A United Kingdom

Director: Amma Asante

Lead Actors: Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Jack Davenport, David Oyelowo

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana causes an international stir when he marries a white woman from London in the late 1940s. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Part of the reason that Loving was all the way down at #27 was because there is another historical film centered around an interracial marriage that seemed like it could be more likely to make a run at awards season.  A cast including David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike is a good starting place, but I'm actually basing a big part of this decision on the director.  She previously director a smaller independent film, Belle, which was quite well done, and given a more star studded cast and a larger production budget, I believe she could make something incredible.  

18. Sully

Director: Clint Eastwood

Lead Actors: Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Aaron Eckhart

Release Date: September 9th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: It might be unwise to have a Clint Eastwood/Tom Hanks collaboration this low on the list.  I'm just not sure the world is ready for another heroic Tom Hanks as a captain in a dire situation film yet, only three years removed from Captain Phillips.  But, Sully is a well-known American hero and Clint Eastwood is a well-known American director who is prone to making popular movies about American heroes (see: American Sniper), so there is a chance that this ends up being not only a box office smash, but an award's season smash as well.  

17. Untitled Woody Allen Film

Director: Woody Allen

Lead Actors: Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Camp, Parker Posey

Release Date: October 12th, 2016 (France)

IMDB Synopsis: The Plot is Unknown (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Betting for Woody Allen films is really risky.  Midnight in Paris was one of my favorite movies of the past 10 years, and earned a lot of nominations and a win. The follow-up film a year later was not well received.  Then, he helped Cate Blanchett earn Oscar gold with Blue Jasmine, but his two films since that have not had the same success.  He has always been a hit-or-miss director, but lately it is a little more erratic.  That being said, the cast could be an interesting mix for Allen and the very few shots that have come from set are exciting to say the least. I would look for this to be a movie with a low floor but a very high ceiling, and could be another Midnight in Paris surprise.  I could also see this being another successful role for Carrell that could be another nomination.  

16. Deep Water

Director: James Marsh

Lead Actors: Rachel Weisz, Colin Firth, David Thewlis

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Yachtsman Donald Crowhurst's disastrous attempt to win the 1968 Golden Globe Race ends up with him creating an outrageous account of traveling the world alone by sea. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: I was a fan of James Marsh's last film, The Theory of Everything, though I think it benefitted a great deal from having a really good story to tell.  It looks like he might have found another very entertaining, yet less well known story.  This sounds like it could be a hilarious vehicle for Colin Firth, who can be quite funny when he needs to be.  On paper, it seems like the type of film that could be successful at combining humor and suspense, much like The Martian this year.  Or it could end up being Firth looking goofy on a boat for two hours.

15. Money Monsters

Director: Jodie Foster

Lead Actors: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Caitriona Balfe, Jack O'Connell

Release Date: May 13th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: In the taut and tense thriller Money Monster, Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a bombastic TV personality whose popular financial network show has made him the money wiz of Wall Street. But after he hawks a high tech stock that mysteriously crashes, an irate investor (Jack O'Connell) takes Gates, his crew, and his ace producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) hostage live on air. Unfolding in real time, Gates and Fenn must find a way to keep themselves alive while simultaneously uncovering the truth behind a tangle of big money lies. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: The first trailer I saw for this made it look like it could either be a by-the-books predictable thriller or a very interesting film that combines suspense with the economic world. I trust Jodie Foster with the cast, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and assuming it is more the latter.  My only fear is the release date, since, as I mentioned with an earlier movie, May is not really the time you put out a movie if you plan for it to be a major award's season player (though that general rule has been broken with 2014's Grand Budapest Hotel in March and 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road in June).  This could be a mediocre economic thriller, or it could be this year's The Big Short or Wolf of Wall Street meets Argo.  Time will tell.

14. Brain on Fire

Director: Gerard Barrett

Lead Actors: Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Armitage, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jenny Slate, Tyler Perry

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A look at a young woman's rapid descent into insanity. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Another best-seller being adapted means another chance for a screenwriting award, but I also think that there is a chance this is a bigger player when it is all said and done.  Moretz seems like she is on the verge of a breakthrough role and a drama dealing with a descent into insanity could be that role.  The director doesn't have a long list of achievements, but that doesn't mean that this won't be the film to take him over the top.  As trailers and more information rolls out, this could move way up on the list or off of the map completely.  

13. Book of Henry

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Lead Actors: Jacob Tremblay, Naomi Watts, Lee Pace, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris, Maddie Ziegler, Bobby Moynihan

Release Date: TBA 2016/ October 26th, 2016 (Germany)

IMDB Synopsis: Plot kept under wraps. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Jacob Tremblay, particularly after charming the entire audience at Dolby Theater last night, is about to become everyone's go to dramatic child actor, and for good reason.  His performance in Room was outstanding.  This is a film with no information as to the plot yet, but knowing he is in it and the future director of Star Wars IX (who is also responsible for Jurassic World and Safety Not Guaranteed) is in the directors seat is comforting.  It may end up being an Academy unfriendly blockbuster, or it could be that surprise late release that throws the whole awards out of whack.  

12. HHhH

Director: Cédric Jimenez

Lead Actors: Rosamund Pike, Mia Wasikowska, Jack O'Connel, Jason Clarke, Jack Reynor

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: 1942: The Third Reich is at its peak. The Czech resistance in London decides to plan the most ambitious military operation of WWII: Anthropoid. Two young recruits in their late twenties, Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, are sent to Prague to assassinate the most ruthless Nazi leader - Reich-protector Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the SS, the Gestapo, and the architect of the "Final Solution". (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: World War II films have long been successful at the Oscars.  From the plot description, it sounds like this film could fall into the category of drama, in which case it has award-season bait written all over it, or action thriller, in which case enjoy it and don't cross your fingers for nominations.  I think it might end up being a successful combination of the two, filled with up and coming actors and actresses (seriously, Jack O'Connel continues to amaze).  

11. Untitled Robert Zemiciks WWII Romance

Director: Robert Zemiciks

Lead Actors: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Release Date: November 23rd, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Set in 1942 following a spy who falls in love and marries a French agent during a dangerous North African mission. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: It may seem foolish to predict awards for movies that have little plot details and no titles, but based on release date, actors, synopsis, directors, really everything about this movie is calling out to be contender.  Zemeciks was thought to maybe jump back onto the Oscar train this last year with The Walk, but that didn't go as well as planned.  Something about this seems different, and if the November 23rd release date is any sign, they feel the same way I do.  I think the real question is, can a film that is just now filming and has a current cast of three people legitimately be finished in time for November.

10. Weightless

Director: Terrence Malick

Lead Actors: Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, Haley Bennett, Benicio Del Toro, Val Kilmer, Holly Hunter

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas. (IMDB link)

Why it could be a contender: Terrence Malick is a director that can have movies like Thin Red Line or Tree of Life that firmly plant themselves in Oscar contention, as well as movies that are just too artistic or confusing for the major voting bodies to get behind.  Based on the brief plot description and the immense cast, I have a feeling this has the potential to be his most awards season friendly movie, and may well be a firm Best Picture contender depending on how it turns out.  Time will tell, and with Knight of Cups (also directed by Malick) coming out soon, it begs to question whether or not this will even be released in 2016. 

9. Passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum

Lead Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburn

Release Date: December 21st, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 60 years early. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Since Gravity, space movies have firmly been in Oscar contention year in and year out, with Interstellar garnering tech awards and nominations and this year's The Martian even getting a Best Picture nod.  With Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two of Hollywood's hottest actors, in the lead roles, this could be this year's science fiction epic that surprises everyone by becoming a financial and critical success.

8. The Zookeeper's Wife

Director: Niko Caro

Lead Actors: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Iddo Goldberg, Michael McElhatton

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: The Zookeeper's Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: There are a lot of book adaptations that look good on paper for this year's ceremony.  I put this as the top of this year's WWII fare because I think it has the most potential in concept.  If anything, this seems like the kind of role that could garner Chastain another nomination.  

7. La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle

Lead Actors: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Sonoya Mizuno, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Release Date: July 15th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: A comedy-drama-musical about Los Angeles that comes out in the middle of the summer is probably not the best thing to put your money on, but I saw Whiplash and I know how much potential Damien Chazelle has.  Pairing him with J.K. Simmons is definitely going to get me excited, and it has been awhile since we've had a musical make very much noise in award's season.  This could be the one to change that, with an all star cast and a seemingly relatable premise.  I'm happy that Chazelle is, for the time being, sticking to jazz themed movies.  

6. Story of Your Life

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Lead Actors: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Forrest Whitaker 

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: I already had one science fiction film highly ranked on this list, but based on recent years it really does seem like it is safe to assume one will be an award's season player.  This could end up being a flashy movie without much to say, but I'm putting faith in Adams and Renner to deliver up the most clever science fiction film of the year.  A linguist attempting to interpret alien communication could be the coolest concept of the year if it is properly executed. 

5. The Birth of a Nation

Director: Nate Parker

Lead Actors: Armie Hammer, Nate Parker, Jackie Earle Haley

Release Date: October 7th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities - against himself and his fellow slaves - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: It is hard to really pick an adequate spot for this movie.  On one hand it was the highest cost purchase at Sundance this year, so studios definitely think it could make a run. That being said, I am seeing some more mixed reviews following the festival.  Some think it is a masterpiece about a difficult issue and praise how raw of an effort it is from an amateur director, while others criticize the directing and cannot see it really making a major run at the top prize.  Time will tell, and it will be interesting to see if it is worth the fortune paid.  

4. Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Lead Actors: Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armie Hammer, Michael Shannon

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: A "story inside a story," in which the first part follows a woman named Susan who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, a man whom she left 20 years earlier, asking for her opinion. The second element follows the actual manuscript, called "Nocturnal Animals," which revolves around a man whose family vacation turns violent and deadly. It also continues to follow the story of Susan, who finds herself recalling her first marriage and confronting some dark truths about herself.

Based on Austin Wright's book 'Tony and Susan'. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Based on concept alone, this would be my top pick of the year.  The split-narrative element could become distracting or it could make this a movie for the ages.  The cast alone had me excited, as well as the director's debut "A Single Man", which was excellent.  It seems like a risky movie that could end up being phenomenal, or crash and burn before we even hit the Golden Globes.  

3. The Founder

Director: John Lee Hancock

Lead Actors: Linda Cardellini, Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Nick Offerman, Laura Dern, B.J. Novak

Release Date: November 25th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: The story of McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: At this point it would be silly to bet against a Keaton led film, after two straight Best Picture wins.  It is a biopic about a well known figure, giving the film high potential to be a major awards season player.  Could this be Keaton's win after seeming a lock early in 2014 only to lose momentum at the last minute?  I would bet that it will be in the conversation if he does half as well as he did in Birdman and Spotlight.  

2. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Director: Ang Lee

Lead Actors: Vin Diesel, Kristin Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, 

Release Date: November 11th, 2016

IMDB Synopsis: An infantryman recounts the final hours before he and his fellow soldiers return to Iraq. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: Ang Lee is a bit hit or miss with the Oscars, but he does have two best director statues to his name and a war themed dramedy seems like another movie that could certainly garner recognition.  Being able to pull in Steve Martin for his first live-action film since the early 2010's is a big win already.  Based on an already award-winning novel, there is a good chance that this could be one of the films we're still talking about this time next year. 

1. Silence

Director: Martin Scorsese

Lead Actors: Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Ciarán Hinds

Release Date: TBA 2016

IMDB Synopsis: In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. (IMDB link

Why it could be a contender: This movie has been hyped for a few years now, and Scorsese has been on a roll recently (not that he ever really was in a slump).  It is going to be strange seeing a late career Scorsese film without Leonardo DiCaprio in the staring role, but a surging Adam Driver and an always solid Liam Neeson as the leads in a religious action-drama sounds like a winning combination.  When trailers begin to surface and more is known about this movie, it'll be easier to see if it is more The Departed or Goodfellas Scorsese, with the potential to go all the way, or if it is Bringing Out the Dead or Shutter Island Scorsese that, while still great, isn't award season great.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

88th Oscar Predictions

Welcome, to this year's Academy Awards predictions!  It is a confusing year, with three obvious front runners and questions in a lot of categories.  Last year, I predicted 21 of the 24 correct with my "WILL WIN" predictions and the remaining 3 correct with the "COULD WIN" predictions.  Let's see how we can stack up this year.  I hope I can help you win your work/school/friend/personal Oscar pool.

(Note: There is an easy to use "Winners" list at the bottom of this page)


The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

This has essentially become an almost evenly divided three movie race, between The Big Short, Spotlight and The Revenant.  Whereas other awards shows are usually good predictors, PGA awarded The Big Short, SAG award Spotlight and BAFTA/DGA awarded The Revenant.  This has led a lot to assume The Revenant is going to take home the big award, but I am not one of them and here is why:  
  1. The PGA winner has gone on to win Best Picture for 8 straight years, so I take it as the best predictor 
  2. The Big Short and Spotlight are similar, in that they are both heady conspiracy related films.  The Revenant is brutal, violent and very artistic.  I doubt this year will be settled on first place votes alone, and while I imagine The Revenant may lead in 1st votes, it definitely has those who didn't enjoy it.  It is a lot more likely to have 1st place votes on some ballots and 4th or 5th place votes on others.  I doubt that The Big Short or Spotlight has many voting below 2nd or 3rd.  Those who have Spotlight 1st seem a lot more likely to have The Big Short as their 2nd place choice, and vice versa.  
  3. Spotlight won SAG, which is the biggest Academy voting group, but I'm willing to bet that The Big Short gets more love from directors and they won the aforementioned producers (PGA). 
It is a very close race between these three, but I see it ending up being The Big Short, Spotlight and then The Revenant in voting.  This is admittedly a bold choice, and you all might be smarter to play it safe on The Revenant.  I'm taking calculated risks this year.

WILL WIN: The Big Short
COULD WIN: Spotlight
SHOULD WIN: The Big Short or Spotlight
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Steve Jobs and Straight Outta Compton


Adam McKay - The Big Short
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárittu - The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson - Room
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

It looks like this may well be another year when Best Director and Best Picture are split, which is becoming increasingly common, happening at both the 85th and 86th Academy Awards.  The two frontrunners seem to be George Miller and Alejandro G. Iñárittu (the reigning champion).  A big part of me wants to go with Miller, as he did an excellent job in a very complicated film and is a director who has never been honored with a Best Director statue (though he did win Animated Feature for Happy Feet).  In the end though, I think that it is Iñárittu's award to lose, as the scope of The Revenant and nominated performances for both primary actors and almost every technical category will vault him over fan favorite Miller.  While both of these are excellent choices, my personal vote would be for Tom McCarthy, based mostly on how excellent the direction of the ensemble cast was in Spotlight. 

WILL WIN: Alejandro G. Iñárittu - The Revenant
COULD WIN: George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD WIN: Spotlight - Tom McCarthy
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Ridley Scott - The Martian


Bryan Cranston - Trumbo
Matt Damon - The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Of all the categories this year, this is definitely the easiest to predict. Leonardo DiCaprio is going to earn his Oscar and the internet can find somebody new to joke about.  In all seriousness though, he definitely deserves this.  Were it not the year of Leo, Michael Fassbender would have probably walked away with the statue in an amazing turn as the tech icon Steve Jobs.  Alas, Fassbender will win one of these days.  

WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
COULD WIN: Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs
SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Steve Carrell - The Big Short


Cate Blanchett - Carol
Brie Larson - Room
Jennifer Lawrence - Joy
Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn

This award is almost as set in stone as Best Actor, though there is a chance that Ronan could sneak through with a win for her turn in Brooklyn.  Brie Larson is so excellent in Room, it was definitely my favorite acting performance of the year.  She is somebody that we can look forward to seeing in this category year in and year out if she keeps up the excellent work she did here. 

WILL WIN: Brie Larson - Room
COULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn
SHOULD WIN: Brie Larson - Room
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: They nailed these nominations, but Rooney Mara should have been lead for Carol


Christian Bale - The Big Short
Tom Hardy - The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight
Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone - Creed

This award seems deceptively set in stone.  In the end, I still think that Sylvester Stallone will come out on top, mostly due to him being a Hollywood legend who has never been honored, plus the poetic nature of him coming back to win for the same role that gave him his previous sole acting nomination 40 years later.  While I personally don't think it is the best supporting role of the year by any means, I understand why he will probably win.  Why it is murky is the largest voting group, the Screen Actors Guild, didn't even have him as a nominee.  Idris Elba, who isn't nominated here, won their supporting actor award.  This means that somebody like Mark Rylance or Mark Ruffalo could sneak in if the Stallone support is a smoke screen, but I certainly doubt that is the case for Sly.

WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone - Creed
COULD WIN: Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
SHOULD WIN: Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Idris Elba - Beats of No Nation


Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara - Carol
Rachel McAdams - Spotlight
Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

Were this truly a group of "supporting" actresses, I think that Kate Winslet would run away with it.  That being said, both Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander did incredible jobs in their roles and both deserve recognition of some sort.  It really comes down to these two in what once looked like a tight race, but I think in the end it will go to newcomer Vikander (who I wish could be nominated multiple times so she could also have a nod for Ex Machina).

WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
COULD WIN: Rooney Mara - Carol
SHOULD WIN: Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina


Charles Randolph and Adam McKay - The Big Short
Nick Hornby - Brooklyn
Phyllis Nagy - Carol
Drew Goddard - The Martian
Emma Donoghue - Room

This category threw me for a loop when they didn't nominate Aaron Sorkin for his brilliant, other award-winning screenplay for Steve Jobs.  This leaves a category with 4/5 nominees being Best Picture nominees, one of which stands out in terms of an adaptation.  This is very likely to go to The Big Short, a seemingly unadaptable novel written into a fantastic movie, with Brooklyn as a runner up.  

WILL WIN: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay - The Big Short
COULD WIN: Nick Hornby - Brooklyn
SHOULD WIN: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay - The Big Short
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Aaron Sorkin - Steve Jobs


Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland - Ex Machina
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen - Inside Out
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus - Straight Outta Compton

This award could go a lot of ways.  Early indications, which I'm going to stick with, imply that Spotlight will come out on top, but I've heard some noise from every other film.  Bridge of Spies is a possibility because it is hard to bet against the Coen Brothers.  Ex Machina was a brilliant piece of science fiction.  Inside Out would be a big win for animated films.  Straight Outta Compton, which should have been nominated in other categories, could win for this being its only nomination of the night.  In the end, the excellent screenplay by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy looks to be the big winner.

WILL WIN: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
COULD WIN: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen - Inside Out
SHOULD WIN: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Quentin Tarantino - The Hateful Eight


Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

There was a brief time when it was thought that Kaufman's incredible, more adult-oriented, animated film Anomalisa could surprise and pull off the win, but this was always going to be Inside Out.  For the rest of the films, it is nice to be nominated, but this has two clear heavy weights and one that is going to be hailed as a children's classic for years to come.  

WILL WIN: Inside Out
COULD WIN: Anomalisa
SHOULD WIN: Inside Out or Anomalisa


Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

COULD WIN: Cartel Land


Colombia - Embrace the Serpent
France - Mustang
Hungary - Son of Saul
Jordan - Theeb
Denmark - A War

WILL WIN: Hungary - Son of Saul
COULD WIN: France - Mustang
SHOULD WIN: Hungary - Son of Saul


Ed Lachman - Carol
Robert Richardson - The Hateful Eight
John Seale - Mad Max: Fury Road
Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant
Roger Deakins - Sicario

WILL WIN: Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant
COULD WIN: Roger Deakins - Sicario
SHOULD WIN: Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant


Sandy Powell - Carol
Sandy Powell - Cindarella
Paco Delgado - The Danish Girl
Jenny Beavan - Mad Max: Fury Road
Jacqueline West - The Revenant

WILL WIN: Jenny Beavan - Mad Max: Fury Road
COULD WIN: Sandy Powell - Cindarella
SHOULD WIN: Jenny Beavan - Mad Max: Fury Road


Hank Corwin - The Big Short
Margaret Sixel - Mad Max: Fury Road
Stephen Mirrione - The Revenant
Tom McArdle - Spotlight
Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN: Hank Corwin - The Big Short
COULD WIN: Margaret Sixel - Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD WIN: Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin - Mad Max: Fury Road
Love Larson and Eva von Bahr - The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared 
Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini - The Revenant

WILL WIN: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian MartinMad Max: Fury Road
COULD WIN: Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini - The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin - Mad Max: Fury Road


Thomas Newman - Bridge of Spies
Carter Burwell - Carol 
Ennio Morricone - The Hateful Eight
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Sicario
John Williams - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN: Ennio Morricone - The Hateful Eight
COULD WIN: John Williams - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
SHOULD WIN: Ennio Morricone - The Hateful Eight or Carter Burwell - Carol


The Weeknd, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephen Moccio - "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey
J. Ralph and Anohni - "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction 
David Lang - "Simple Song #3" from Youth
Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith - "Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre
Diane Warren and Lady Gaga - "Til it Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground

WILL WIN: Diane Warren and Lady Gaga - "Til it Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground
COULD WIN: The Weeknd, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephen Moccio - "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey
SHOULD WIN: Diane Warren and Lady Gaga - "Til it Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground


Adam Stockhausen/Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich - Bridge of Spies
Eve Stewart/Michael Standish - The Danish Girl
Colin Gibson/Lisa Thompson - Mad Max: Fury Road
Arthur Max/Celia Bobak - The Martian
Jack Fisk/Hamish Purdy - The Revenant

WILL WIN: Colin Gibson/Lisa Thompson - Mad Max: Fury Road
COULD WIN: Jack Fisk/Hamish Purdy - The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Colin Gibson/Lisa Thompson - Mad Max: Fury Road


Mark Mangini and David White - Mad Max: Fury Road
Oliver Tarney - The Martian
Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender - The Revenant
Alan Robert Murray - Sicario
Matthew Wood and David Acord - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN: Mark Mangini and David White - Mad Max: Fury Road
COULD WIN: Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender - The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Matthew Wood and David Acord - Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin - Bridge of Spies
Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo - Mad Max: Fury Road
Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth - The Martian
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek - The Revenant
Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo - Mad Max: Fury Road
COULD WIN: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Christ Duesterdiek - The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson - Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett - Ex Machina
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams - Mad Max: Fury Road
Richard Stammers, Anders Landlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner - The Martian
Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer - The Revenant
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WILL WIN: Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
COULD WIN: Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams - Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD WIN: Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett - Ex Machina


Body Team 12
Chau, beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

WILL WIN: Body Team 12
COULD WIN: Claude Lanzmann: Specters of the Shoah
SHOULD WIN: Body Team 12


Bear Story
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

WILL WIN: Sanjay's Super Team
COULD WIN: World of Tomorrow
SHOULD WIN: Sanjay's Super Team


Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

WILL WIN: Ave Maria
SHOULD WIN: Stutterer


Best Picture: The Big Short
Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárittu - The Revenant
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Best Actress: Brie Larson - Room
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone - Creed
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Writing - Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Documentary Feature: Amy
Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Best Cinematography: The Revenant
Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Film Editing: The Big Short
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Music (Original Score): The Hateful Eight
Best Music (Original Song): "Til it Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground
Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Documentary Short Subject: Body Team 12
Best Short Film - Animated: Sanjay's Super Team
Best Short Film - Live Action: Ave Maria